RVing With Dogs
Posted by Tom Westley on
It's not uncommon for RVers to enjoy the additional company and stress relief that can come from having a furry companion. And while rodents, cats, and even fish and reptiles can all adapt to the RV lifestyle (with enough planning and care), no pet is as beloved in the big rig community as the dog.
As a pet-friendly park, we've met a great spread of pups of all breeds, and it's always a pleasure to see guests connect over their mutual love of animals. That said, introducing a pet to a shared area like a campground or park is very different from keeping one at home, and travelling with them can be even more complicated. Here are some tips on how to make RVing with dogs as easy on you (and your pet)(and your neighbours) as possible!
Preparing Your Dog To Hit The Road
Even before you start the engine, it's good to prepare for your dog's needs, get an idea of what kind of amenities you can expect, and check in with your dog directly:
- If you haven't microchipped your dog already, look into having it done; it can make a big difference if Rover makes a break for it in a strange neighbourhood. If your dog is microchipped, make sure that its info in the microchip database is up to date. Put your cell phone number and an ID tag on your dog's collar, and keep a photo of your dog on your phone and in your wallet.
- Allow for extra travel time in your plans so that your dog can take breaks. If you'll be driving for long stretches, you should stop at least every 4-6 hours for your dog to take a bathroom break and work off some energy.
- Plan to stick to existing feeding and walking schedules as much as possible. Keeping up routines will help minimize stress on your dog and keep them happy.
- Look for dog- and pet-friendly stops and amenities along your route. Dog parks, off-leash areas, pet-friendly cafés, and even pet festivals can be fun for both you and your pooch.
- If you're travelling to or staying in an unfamiliar area, look up local leash laws, pet restrictions, and whether there are any breed bans in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
- If your dog is a senior or has anxiety problems, check in with your family vet before you leave. A clean bill of health and a fresh supply of any required medication will put your mind at ease (and can make customs easier if you're crossing the border).
- Speaking of borders, if you're crossing into Canada with your dog, have your vet-issued vaccination record(s) on hand to show officers, and only pack commercially packaged pet food — home-made or unlabelled pet food may be confiscated.
- Reduce your dog's meal portions shortly before your trip. This will make it less likely that they'll get sick while travelling.
- Give your dog plenty of walks and/or play time before you leave to tucker them out, and decrease the chance that they'll get antsy on the road.
- Talk to and interact with your dog regularly all the way up to the trip, and let them see how happy and excited you are to be travelling. Keep an eye out for any anxious behaviour during preparation steps.
- When prepping your motorhome, set up a special place both for your dog to rest when you're parked (like a pad or bed), and to safely stay in while the vehicle is in motion (like a crate). Fill them with familiar-smelling objects like favourite blankets and (soft) toys.
- Even when everything goes perfectly, some dogs become too old or too anxious to travel any more. It's always good to have emergency backup plans and contacts in case you need to leave your dog in someone else's care.
Travelling With Your Dog
An excited dog hanging its head out a car window may be a familiar scene, but it can be dangerous for them to have free range of a moving vehicle, especially in a motorhome. Make sure your dog is safely confined whenever your vehicle is in motion, and be careful during stops:
- Check that your dog has enough ventilation and will be secure when the car is in motion, whether that's in a crate or with a doggy seat belt. If you're using a crate and your dog is anxious, you can try covering the crate with a light blanket to hide the passing scenery until your dog has calmed down.
- Keep your dog safe: put the leash on before you open the door. Dogs who are familiar with motorhomes often get excited as soon as the RV comes to a stop, and they want out right away even when they don't know the area. Having them secure on a leash keeps them away from surprises like oncoming traffic, unfamiliar dogs, glass on the side of the road, and other hazards.
- Brushing your dog while you're outside taking a break will make it easier to keep a clean rig. Dander and loose fur will blow away on the wind instead of getting stuck inside your vacuum.
- Always pick up after your pet! If your break spot doesn't have a garbage can for your dog's waste, seal it in a ziploc bag to lock in the odour, double bag it, and hang onto it until the next garbage can comes along.
- If you stop for a tour or to go shopping and have to leave your pooch in the RV, check that the vents are open (in warm weather), fresh water is out, the windows are either closed or only open a crack (and can't be pushed open), and consider leaving a few puddle pads on the floor just in case there's an accident. Don't ever leave pets unattended for long periods of times without proper heat or air conditioning.
Keeping Your Dog At A Campground
Even at pet-friendly campgrounds, being a responsible and polite pet owner is a must. Just like at a hotel, other guests may have circumstances around animals that you aren't aware of, such as allergies or phobias. You should pay as much attention to your neighbours' needs as you do your pet's:
- Dogs in a strange new place will follow their nose, so keep your pet on a leash at all times, and make sure you're holding on to the other end. D-rings (of proper strength) can be useful for smaller breeds — use them to loop leashes around sturdy objects and keep them in place while you step inside a downtown shop.
- Make sure your pet doesn't disturb other campers. Do your best to find out if your new neighbours have any young children, cats or dogs of their own, are afraid of or allergic to dogs, or simply don't like them. Strike up a conversation with them if you can, and see if there are any agreements you need to come to on when and where your pet is allowed out.
- Do a meet-and-greet when you first arrive at a park: first on your own, then — with your neighbours' permission — bringing your dog along. Even with friendly campers, dogs can experience "stranger danger" and be anxious at meeting a lot of new people at once, so make the rounds slowly. During new introductions, always make sure to give your dog extra attention, watch for signs of anxiety, and have lots of rewards and quiet spaces ready afterwards. Remember, dogs hear much more than you do.
- It is the sole responsibility of the owner to pick up after your critter. Always carry poop bags. Deposit waste in the nearest dumpster or trash can, or bring it back to your motorhome — don't leave it around the campground or along trails.
- Keep your dog's training and behavioural conditioning up to date, and review all pet-related rules every time you visit a campsite. Even if it's a location you've visited before, the rules may have been updated since you were last there. Excessive noise, roaming off leash, bringing your dog into site buildings, or allowing your pet on other campers' sites could all result in you being asked to leave.
- Like many parks and campgrounds, Salish Seaside RV Haven doesn't allow pets to be left unattended. Keep the contact information for a pet sitter or doggy day care close at hand, plus a second one for backup. Investigate pet services such as dog walkers, groomers, and dog sitters in your new neighbourhood, or ask at our front desk for a recommendation. While you tour a museum or go to a ball game, your dog will be pampered and primped.
Dogs enrich the lives of their owners in many ways, and there's no reason they can't enjoy a road trip too. Follow proper pet owner courtesy and both you and your pup are sure to have a great time living the RV lifestyle.